Boys getting their fix of competing in sporting activity is pretty much catered for, the same though can’t – or at least couldn’t – be said for girls in the community.
That was until Natalie Kenton decided to do something about it. Having set up a lunch-time netball club at Wolfson Hillel in 2008 – where her three daughters went, she enjoyed instant success with them. “It proved to be a very popular club with the kids, we started winning tournaments. I was amazed at the natural ability of some of the girls, and parents started enquiring about out of school clubs.
“I decided that there was a real need in the Jewish community for something which would engage young girls in team sports, and loving coaching the kids at Hillel, decided to become a proper coach.” Working with the sport’s governing body, England Netball, to get her necessary qualifications, she said: “It’s been incredibly easy to do, probably because I enjoy it so much. It ticks so many boxes for me as a working mum and I’ve been supported by a community which was crying out for a girl’s competitive team sports club.”
Launching Nat’s Netball Club in January 2012, with twenty 7-9-year-old girls on a Sunday afternoon and twenty 10-12-year-olds on a Wednesday evening, the club has grown to such an extent, that she now runs 15 training sessions throughout the week for different age groups, ranging from 7-15-year-olds, with 273 Jewish girls signed up.
Teams are well respected on the non-Jewish netball circuit, compete in the St Albans Junior Netball League, while this season, three girls are competing at the Middlesex Netball Satellite U14 Academy, though before-school clubs – starting at 8am – are currently held at Wolfson Hillel Primary School, Mathilda Marks Kennedy School and Independent Jewish Day Schools.
Her first experience of coaching netball was when she started the lunchtime club at Hillel in 2008, having not played the sport since being at school in 1986. From there, she started playing again with a group of other mums from school and rediscovering her love for the game, attended a workshop run by England Netball for school clubs, which led to her getting her Level 2 UKCC Netball Coaching Qualification in November 2011.
As well as her netball classes, Natalie’s recently been working with Maccabi London Brady to try and engage more girls in team sports, with a New Stars Lacrosse Club taking place at Rowley Lane and an Athletics Club at Allianz Park.
And on the lookout for more youngsters to take part, she says: “The girls love coming to training. It’s fun, they make great friends and they stay healthy. “We as a community should want to level out the playing field and achieve the same for female focused sports and to include as many girls as possible in team sports. It’s fun being fit!”